William Shakespeare’s Dune

In honor of William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and inspired by the recent discovery of his lost “Star Wars: A New Hope,” may I present the first two scenes of William Shakespeare’s lost “Dune” manuscript, which I have recently discovered. (I suspect a collaboration with H.G. Wells led to this) Who knows? If I’m encouraged enough, I might post further sections

William Shakespeare’s Dune

Dramatis Personae (so far)

The Duke Leto Atreides
The Lady Jessica — his bound concubine
Paul Atreides – his son
The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam — A Bene Gesserit Proctor

Act I, Scene i. The Castle Caladan

Paul Atreides’ Bedroom
Paul Atreides lies on his bed, asleep.
Lady Jessica and Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

REV: Is not he weak and paltry for his age?

JES: Your Reverence, it is no cause for concern.
Th’ Atreides often stunt their early growth.

REV: Yet he hath grown already fifteen years?

JES: Aye.

REV:                         Yet he’s awake and listens to us now,
The slyness of a spider shall he need
If thou hast borne the Kwisatz Haderach…
Sleep well, thou spiderling, and have a care:
Tomorrow thou shalt meet my gom jabbar.

Exit Lady Jessica and Reverend Mother Mohiam

PAUL: I dream a dream of time to come and space
A thousand-folded futures, dreaming true.
What is this cavern cold, perfumed with spice?
Arrakis, Dune, the Desert Planet looms
In my mind’s eye, remembered, yet unseen
In any past that should lodge in my brain.
Harkonnen fief that was, and now is ours:
Such wealth should make my father laugh for joy
Of vict’ry o’er the cruel Baron’s pride.
And yet his mood is somber. Is’t indeed
As Mentat Thufir says, and out of fear
That Emperor Shaddam has granted us
Arrakis: spiced and honeyed as a trap?
But still! The crone did call me spiderling
And I lie fretting as th’ensnared fly.
My mother’s disciplines I shall recall
And choosing consciousness shall master all.

 Enter Lady Jessica

 JES: Didst thou sleep well?

PAUL:                                  Aye, mother, what’s the matter?

JES: Dress and come. The Reverend Mother waits.

PAUL: I dreamed of her. Who is she then to thee?

JES: My teacher once. A Bene Gesserit sage.
And now the Emperor’s Truthsayer is become.
Thou must discover for her all thy dreams.

PAUL: I will. But what’s a gom jabbar?

JES: In time the gom jabbar thou shalt well know.
The Reverend Mother waits upon thee. Haste!



Act I, Scene ii.

The Lady Jessica’s Morning Room

The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, pacing.

REV: My age, already heavy to be borne
The Spacing Guild and all its cursed ways
Doth magnify as surely as it were
I rode one of their torchships at full thrust
At slingshot ‘round a collapsar’s black well.
Damn’d girl, to bear the son that drags me here
And shakes th’Imperial peace to brink of war!

 Enter the Lady Jessica and Paul. He bows, shallowly.

REV: A cautious child.

JES:                                      So have I taught, Your Reverence.

REV: Now we see the difference ‘twixt the teaching and the self.
Leave us, and do thou meditate in peace.

JES: Your Rev’rence…

REV:                                                 Jessica, thou know’st ‘twere better done.

JES: Aye. Paul, I pray thee do regard
This test as though it held thy mother’s soul.
Remember thou art scion of a Duke.

She exits

PAUL: Dost thou dismiss the Lady Jessica
As though she were a common serving wench?

 REV: My serving wench thy lady mother was
For fourteen years at school, and never failed
Her charge. Now come thou here!

Paul approaches her. She produces the Box.

REV: See this? Put thy right hand within the box.

 He pulls back

REV: Is this then how thou heed’st thy mother’s voice?

 He obeys.

REV: Stop! At thy neck I hold the gom jabbar.
The gom jabbar, high-handed enemy.
A needle fine, the point envenomed, too.
That venom thou shalt feel if thou shouldst flinch.
Thou knowest aye of poison, and how not?
Duke’s son thou art, and subject in these times
To Musky, poison in the drink, or yet
Aumas, the poison in the food. Such words
Our language hath, denoting all the sorts
Of death we deal each other. Here’s one more:
The gom jabbar. It killeth only beasts.

PAUL: Thou darest to suggest I am a beast?

REV: That thou mayest be human, I suggest.
Hold fast! Crone I may be and yet my hand hath speed
To drive this needle through thy sinewe’d neck.

PAUL: How didst thou work this trick? My mother gone.
Art thou then a Harkonnen stratagem?

REV: Harkonnen? By the gods you miss the mark.
The test is simple, with one cardinal rule:
So long thy hand stays in the box thou liv’st.
Remove it, and thou shalt then surely die.

PAUL: If I cry out, thou too shalt surely die
Upon the steel of House Atreides’ blades.

REV: Thy guards would never pass thy mother’s watch.
Depend on that. She too survived this test.
Be honored; sons are few who suffer this.

PAUL: Suffer? What is in that shadow?

REV:                                                                          Pain.
Thou hast no doubt, heard of an animal
Ensnared, in pain, which in its agony
‘Scapes death by gnawing off its very limb.
Not so the human. He would play at death
Remain ensnared and in dread ambuscade
Await the trapper, and from his gory heart
Kill that whose pride dared hunt a human soul.

PAUL: Why dost thou this?

REV:                                                 To see if thou art human.

PAUL: It burns!

REV:                         Be silent, sirrah!

PAUL:                                                          Gods, the pain!

REV: Kull wahad! I am profoundly stirred.
No woman child e’er withstood that much.
I must have wanted thee to fail. Young human
Take thy hand from out that box and gaze
Upon thy membership in humankind.

PAUL removes his hand. It is whole.

REV: We do not maim the humans and then leave
The animals among us hale and well.
‘Tis ‘gainst all reason. Nerve induction suits
Our purpose – and would others’ just as well.

PAUL: Such blinding pain…

REV:                                                 What’s pain? No human bows
To earthy and abhorred nerve-bound pain.

PAUL: You did this also to my mother once?

REV: Hast thou never sifted sand through screens?
The Bene Gesserit do also sift
The people of the worlds to find true men
And women worthy of the name of human.

PAUL: And pain’s enough to find the truth of this?

REV: The crisis is the measure of the man.

PAUL: ‘Tis truth!

REV (aside):              He senses truth? Could it indeed
Be him who is the heir of all our works?
Be cautious, for the park of hope doth blind
The vision of the night which truly sees.

(to Paul)

Thou knowest when men speak the truth?

PAUL:                                                                             I do.

REV: Perhaps thou art the Kwisatz Haderach.
Sit here, my brother.

PAUL:                               I prefer to stand.

REV: Thou hatest us a bit, eh? Jessica!

Lady Jessica enters

REV: Hast thou yet forgiven all I taught?

JES: Both love and hate I bear for thee. From pain
I never shall forget I hate. My love…

REV: Is just the basic fact of life.
Stand silently. And see that no man enter.
Someday lad, thou too may need to stand
Without a door, and dread the consequence.

PAUL: Why dost thou test for humans?

REV:                                                                        To set you free.

PAUL: How free?

REV:                         To set themselves at liberty
Men once raised up machines to think their thoughts.
And so enslaved themselves to clever men
With like machines.

PAUL:                           “Thou shalt make no machine”
In likeness of the living mind of man.”

REV: Indeed! But what the Scripture should have taught
Was not to counterfeit the human mind.
Hast thou thy Mentat studied?

PAUL:                                  Thufir Hawat
Hath honored me by teaching me his arts.

REV: The Great Revolt forced humankind to think.
Of all the schools then founded, only two
Are left us. One, The Spacing Guild spreads out
The art of mathematics to the mind.
And folds the space between the stars of men.
The other, Bene Gesserit…

PAUL:                                  The body politic
Is it not so? Your diet is a strange one.

REV: Kull wahad!

JES:                              I have not told him this.

REV: Thou seest well. Our founders saw a need.
A need for humans set apart from beasts
To breed a race to rule o’er lesser men.

PAUL: How is it then, my lady mother knows
Not who her parents were?

REV:                                     Many do not.
We might have wished to breed her to a man
Consanguineal, a dominant to seal.
Our reasons are legion.

PAUL:                                  Legion, indeed.
Thou say’st I’m Kwisatz Haderach perhaps.
What’s this, a type of human gom jabbar?

JES: Paul, you must not…

REV:                                     Fear not, I will reply.
What dost thou know of that distilled elixir
Truthsayers drink when falsehoods must be found?
Hast thou the truthtrance seen?

PAUL:                                  Never. Why?

REV: ‘Tis perilous to use. Then can one see
The body’s memory, to pass within
The memories of women long since dead.
Yet there’s a place no Truthsayer may look.
It terrifies us, freezes up our blood.
‘Tis said one day a man shall pass within
And look with opened vision down the path
Of men and women both, and speak the truth
No woman can behold, and keep her reason.

PAUL: This Kwisatz Haderach shall do all this?

REV: Aye, he shall be at one time many places.
Many try. And none have yet succeeded.

PAUL: Is that the consequence? To try and fail?

REV: They tried and died. And bid their souls farewell.


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